Sunday, October 28, 2007

Crew Development night for Folkboats

It's hard to imagine having trouble finding crew for a Wednesday evening race, but it's becoming a problem. With the increase in the number of boats participating, the crew talent pool has dwindled and often people are picking up randoms on the dock just to make the start. That's all well and good if you like risking your life and large financial assets on the talents of strangers. I for one would rather golf (and I hate golf) than try to race with someone who doesn't know the routines of racing a boat... with the intention of winning.
So, with the help of the San Francisco Bay Folkboat Association officers and those boat owners who are experienced, but need crew, we are in the process of developing what we call crew night. It is a chance for those who want to learn how to race folkboats to get out and learn the routines.
To give those people interested in trying this out, I will break down the Wednesday Evening race routine.

Get off work early... sounds good already, huh? Meet at the dock around 5 pm and help get the sails ready, have a beer. Read the tide book, study the wind strength and talk about possible strategies based on discovered conditions. Talk about the jib lead position and make sure you know your position... you won't be skipper, so you will either be trimming the main sail or the jib. We have affectionately named the latter the "Jibsman", but really what that means is jib trimmer and foredeck. Make sure the whisker pole is out and on the deck and on the side you will need it for the first anticipated windward rounding and finish your beer. After you cast off, coil and stow the halyards in the place the skipper wants them. Every skipper is slightly different, but when you want the sails down in a hurry, no one should ever be at a loss as to where the halyards are and damn it, they should never get tangled. Know where the anchor is and be ready at a moments notice to get it... we don't have engines and a complete stop is better than going up on the rocks or getting sucked under a pier. As you exit the harbor keep your head in the game and focus on the task of always making the boat go as fast as possible... it's an attention to detail that wins races. Assess the shape of the sail and make adjustments as needed. Make sure the VHF is on and on the right channel and monitor it for information from the race committee. Practice tacking and make sure you know how to make 2 quick tacks in case things get tight on the race course. Wave to your new friends on the other boats and look for the course flag. Identify what number it is and read the course off to the skipper all the while watch the wind for gust patterns and also where the current is going. Listen for the warning guns and get your backward counting stop watch that has a recurring 5 minute countdown ready. This will not be supplied to you, so invest. Also make sure you have your own comfortable foul weather gear, gloves and PFD (Personal Floatation Device). I always have 4 on board in case someone forgets, but if you are an adult, you should act like one and get your own gear. Watch the two fleets ahead of your start to see how their fleet's top performers do. When our start gets down into the starting sequence, call out every 15 seconds how much time until the start all the while trimming the sails and monitoring the wind, current and possible collision courses with other boats... complicated, huh? Make a final assessment of the race course flag and when their is 1 minute to go, call out the time remaining until the start every 10 seconds and every second with 10 seconds to go. Bang! Listen to see if your boat was over the start line early and report to the skipper ASAP if you are clear or need to go back and re-start. The first 5 minutes of the race are critical that the sails are properly trimmed and your crew weight is in it's properly balanced place to stabilize the boat. Assess your boat's speed and point relative to the others in the fleet and make short comments to the skipper if your boat is going faster than others or pointing higher on the wind. Have the jib sheet wrapped and ready for a tack and stay out of the line of sight of the skipper who needs to see the sails and the water to drive properly. Check over your shoulder to see if their is room to tack and warn the skipper of a potential problem if you were to immediately tack. This next moment on the race course is my number 1 nightmare if done incorrectly... Ducking or taking the stern of a starboard tack boat. The jib needs to stay in to drive the bow down, but the main sail needs to be let out so the boat can turn. If it isn't done correctly, the insurance companies take over and the premiums go up. Make sure you know how to do this maneuver, it is too hard for one person to do it by themselves in 30 knots of breeze. After the initial drama of the start things start to settle and the boats spread out. When you approach the windward rounding, hopefully you will have already learned how to set the pole or support the guy on the foredeck setting the pole. There is a certain routine to the upwind mode vs. the downwind mode, but everything depends on wind strength and current. But usually, ease the jib halyard tension and outhaul tension, release the cunningham and make sure the vang is in the proper position. If you are in an old wooden boat, pump the bilge. If you are in a GRP (fiberglass) boat, check the bilge... maybe. Depending on your position and competative nature, get a beer for everyone. Gybing is fun... and can be real exciting when you combine the wake from a ferry boat... sometimes the bow goes completely under water like a submarine... hang on, because if you go overboard you'll be cold and wet and it will usually ruin your chances of winning the race. Leeward or downwind roundings are fun, but there are all these rules to deal with and understand. These are all for future discussion at the bar later. For now, just do what you are told and do it quickly... without breaking anything. After taking the pole down and going around the mark, don't stick your foot out and tap the mark like this rookie did one time on my boat. As fun as it is to do this, it is a penalty for hitting the mark. If this happens your boat has to make a 360 degree turn as soon as conditions permit and definitely before finishing. After one or two laps around the course, it's time to return to the harbor. Get the halyards ready and give everyone a beer. Some skippers believe their are actually 3 races on any give race day; the race to the race course, the actually race and the race to the bar. If you get to the dock and have most everything ready to go before you get there, you can usually make it to the bar first and get another beer before the crowds and long waits develop. So, on my boat we take down the jib, roll and stow it before we enter the harbor. All that's left is the main and the crew's gear... some put a cover on their boats, but that takes too much time and plus, the boat needs to dry out first. When the main comes down just before landing at the dock, catch the boat on the dock and secure the dock lines. Properly stow the jib halyard the way the skipper likes it and start rolling the main. The skipper is taking care of the main sheet, tiller and finishing his beer. After the main is rolled, take it all the way off the boom and tie it with two sail ties. carry it down below and bring out the boom crutch, crew gear and anything else that isn't going to live on the boat. Have another beer while you hose off all the salt water while the other crew pumps out any water that may be remaining. The skipper will be checking your work and correcting any mistakes you've made and of course being tremendously critical at the same time... it is a precision sport you know. Ride 'em hard, put 'em away wet. Grab your stuff and make your way over to the club for drinks, dinner and awards ceremony. Watch the sun setting behind the Golden Gate Bridge, talk about the race at the bar& dinner and forget all about your work week stress... only 2 days to go til the weekend and this little wet bounce around the bay was a perfect way to break up the week. Yeah, it's a little routine we've been doing for 50 years as a fleet and with any luck another 50 more. Sound like fun? Then sign up through the web site and come out on a Tuesday evening to learn the routines. If people want to go out, we'll get some guys with boats and get you out so you can learn not under race conditions... trust me, that's no fun for anyone on the boat. But on a Tuesday, there's more time to get things straight, practice maneuvers and talk without the stress of racing. What do you think? All this starts in March. If you can't wait until then we have a Mid-Winter series that is just starting and way more low-key than a Wednesday or weekend summer season race. Write back if you are interested.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Annika goes for a Hike on Mt.Tam

We woke up late... 9:30. It was my turn to keep Annika quiet enough for Cassandra to sleep in for once. I did my job well. I took Annika out of her crib at 6 am and we migrated out to the living room, put the recliner in it's "lay back" position, snuggled Annika up on my shoulder and she was out like a light. I'm so lucky to have a daddy's girl. We both fell asleep and before we knew it... 9:30. A good night's sleep is now the most important thing. Since we were both well rested, Cassandra suggested we go for a hike on Tam. I've been looking forward to this long before Annika was born. We go hiking on Tam all the time, it was our thing to do at least once a weekend way before the baby and we haven't since she was born... it was time.

We started at up by the theater and did our 2nd favorite loop. We ended up at the West Point Inn and stopped to change and feed the baby... I carried her the whole way in our Ergo-baby... it's the modern day Baby Bjorn, but way more comfortable... all the weight is carried off your hips and I hardly feel like I'm carrying anything.
Being new to the father thing, I'm amazed at the attention a dad gets holding a 2 month old... it's like being a rock star... everyone loves a baby and wants to make a comment or worse, offer advice. I understand the urge to correct child behavior, I'm a jr. high PE teacher, but that's my job... when I'm out in public I let them do whatever and it's their parent's problem if their kid is acting retarded. But when you have a baby people are less than subtle about what you should be doing and quite frankly, it's intrusive and rude sometimes. Just when I got Annika out on the table these two women start telling me she needs a hat, her face has been smooshed on her left side, she needs to be covered by a blanket, blah, blah, blah... and while I'm holding her they actually try to put on her hat I had just taken off and cover us with a blanket I had just laid down to change her. First, wash your hands before you try to touch my baby. Second, don't touch my baby without asking. Third, did I ask you for your assistance or advice? Lastly, did I want your opinion or help? If the answer to any of these is no... keep your distance. Just look at these pictures of my little girl... why would I let your germs get her sick? Forgive the defensiveness of my tone, but when I look into my little girl's eyes and she looks up and smiles at me because she knows I'm her daddy... wow, that's love. Of course I'm going to protect her from anything I perceive as a threat, wouldn't you?
Back to the story... pit stop complete, we packed her back into the Ergo-baby and finished the rest of our hike. What an awesome day... a little hazy, but beautiful out. We could see some boats out on the Olympic Circle trying to race, but not much wind... I'd rather have been on my hike. On the trail we hardly saw anyone and we got a chance to do what we love and be together... all 3 of us.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Annika Goes to the Pumpkin Patch

Annika told us she had never been to a pumpkin patch before and we thought this to be a travesty. So we loaded up the car and went south down to Half Moon Bay for the annual pumpkin festival. We found parking at a local school for $5... who am I not to support schools? So, we gladly paid the 5 spot and went downtown to see all the goings on. We had some food, looked around, changed a diaper, but got board and headed over to our favorite pumpkin patch.
We like Farmer John's Pumpkin Farm because there's the best selection of pumpkins and much more.
They provide little red wagons or wheel barrows for you to cruise around and pick your pumpkin, gourd, brussle spouts on the... vine?
They have a Tee Pee for the kids to play in... or maybe to remind us of how we decimated the indigenous peoples and stole their land.

The different types of pumpkins are fun to go through and make for excellent pictures... Cassandra took all these pictures... she sure has a good eye for this type of thing.
Bumble bee on a sunflower.... cool.

I kept thinking, I wonder if Annika would fit into a pumpkin? This is probably the only year I could ever hollow out a pumpkin and put her in it.... if you saw what this pumpkin looked like on the inside you'd think I was crazy to put her in it.
After a while we snagged a pumpkin and headed home.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Congratulations Tom Reed jr - 2007 Single Handed Winner

Congratulations to Tom Reed jr. on winning the 2007 Single Handed Race. The race conditions couldn't have been better - 5-10 knots of breeze and a city front flood tide to make it interesting. Tom jr. led the race just after the start, Peter and I closed in on him. I got close once taking his stern as close as I usually like to cut it, but the next 2 tacks he gained several boat lengths and never looked back... Ok, he looked back... but we were behind him. I came close on the 2nd up wind leg but had clipped my jib sheet under the whisker pole and screwed my chances of gaining on Tom. So, in the end I was in 2nd, Peter Jeal was in 3rd and we had 7 boats out for our race.

I know this picture isn't from today, but I didn't get a chance to take pictures, I was a little busy to day and Cassandra wasn't available to do her usual good photo taking... it's better than no picture.

Notably absent was Chris, Mike, Dave, Richard... just think if these guys showed up and Bob Grigsby and Bob Frazier and Adrian Burns and Mike Smith in USA 114 and a few of the other guys were to show up we could have had over 15 boats.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Starting Sequence for Race Seven SF Cup

With the left side clearly favored Christoph looks like he's at the right place at the right time... Bengt looks a little early and Peter is about to lee bow someone.
Bengt looks good after luffing, but look up the line... Chris Herrmann is flying!! Look how deep Ditte is... clearly she's good, she pulled a 2nd place with that start.
...And up by the committee boat, Herrmann punches out with speed, he wasn't pointing super high, but you combine a wind increase from the right and a bunch of lumpy waves at the pin end and you have a recipe for coming over the top of the whole fleet.

At the pin end boats are pinching, banging into waves and fighting for early race position... but Chris is free and clear to go fast.
Looks to me like the Dutch spent too much time trying to get over on Wilson and just went too slow... no need either, there was plenty of room to leeward.
Looks like the stronger wind hasn't reached the middle of the line yet and Chris is motoring.
With every shot you can see how Chris gains and gains and gains. The wind finally evens out, but too late 108 is gone.

Wilson makes a strong case for coming up under Herrmann, but... not gonna happen. Clearly, the right side of the line was favored, right guys?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Where Would We Be Without Peter Jeal?

Without Peter Jeal where would the San Francisco Folkboat Association be? I'd have won a season championship and 2 Wednesday evening series, but I'm not bitter. When I win both of those I want to earn it, so thank Peter for making me work for it. We need a guy like Peter in our fleet... he's so talented. He can make anything our of metal or wood and he's got a shop with every tool and machine you'd ever need and if you're nice and you beg, he'll let you borrow them.
We need a guy like Peter around because he can fix almost anything wrong with a folkboat and he knows all the boats so well. He knows where they are and in what condition they are in. He often knows who has recently bought a boat to help "keep them in the family."

We also need a guy like Peter to force us to learn how to race in light wind conditions. We are so used to 10-30 knots that when it gets down below 5 knots we don't know what to do. Peter proved during race 7 he can lead the way even with top Europeans in the mix.
Suzi is probably reading this going, what about me? He'd be nothing with out me! Yes, you're right, Suzi... you two make a tough team to beat... you don't even need a talented 3rd to win and when you do get a good 3rd... lights out, most of the time.

Peter made metal brackets and gave them out to those who wanted to go to the central main sheet idea... he could have charge $100 bucks each... I would have paid for it, but he's such a generous guy. He's always got a spare part you need around somewhere... it won't be the kind of thing you could use for the whole season, but it'll get you through the next race. So, Peter... if you're reading this, thanks for all you do to help keep our fleet together... literally.

Sailing out for the practice race

I had a previous commitment on the day of the practice race, but I made it down to the dock to make sure everyone had what they needed. When the boats left the harbor I drove up to this car port I knew about to get some good shots of the boats going through Raccoon Straights over the Olympic Circle. No fog in sight... might be a light wind day.

Angel Island in the background. Can you see the tide line in this shot?

Brock, Bill and George making their way to the circle.

Team Andreasen DEN 1130

All smiles all the time, Ditte Andreasen graced us with her presence for the 2007 SF Cup. Always the life of the party, Ditte and the Danes made the event a party from beginning to end. ;-)

Ditte's crew Anders Jonas Pedersen and Andreas Kuchler.
Ditte at the boat draw getting USA 76, Bill Madison's beautiful and fast wooden boat... sorry about the broken boom in race 3... aluminum would look right on this boat, huh?

The Swedes Draw Scout... again

At the boat draw the #1 Swedish team drew Scout... again. They were so pleased with their draw, but felt it was unfair to have the same boat they drew in 2005 that they asked if this should be allowed? Fortunately for them, the regatta officers allowed them to keep the draw. A new rule for the regatta has been proposed in hind-site... The Donald Bratt Rule for the SF Cup boat Draw: If a returning competitor draws the same boat from the previous SF Cup event they can elect to keep the boat or draw again. Seems like a good idea to me.
Both Swedish teams shedding tears at the raising of the flag and the beautiful sounds of the Swedish National Anthem.
2 Swedes have won the SF Cup; Mats Hedfors in 1987 and Anders Olsen in 1983.

The Swedish teams: Swe 1358 Donald Bratt, Bjorn Axel Johansson and Lars Landen. Also, SWE 1305 Bengt Jarfelt, Ake Ljungqvist, Marc Kasanin.
... What is Borat doing in the picture?

Here are some shots of SWE 1358 during race 7 in very light winds.

SF Cup - It's the people that make this event

The SF Cup is the great event that it is because of the people who help get it all together. Bill Madison is one of them. He was our fleet president, season champion and coordinator of the revival of the SF Cup. Without Bill, this event would not be success it has been. I hope Bill has documented and blueprinted all the aspects of the event for our fleets future. I wouldn't want to reinvent the wheel if I'm ever put in charge of this.
Don and Joan Wilson, founders of Team Wilson, are equally important to our event's success. If it wasn't for a pesky should, Don would have been out there with his son doing well as usual. Luckily, Dave got the "sailing gene" and showed his dad he could take care of business for the family. Don's work with organizing boat work parties, delegating event support positions to the right people and being the voice of reason when things seem to get out of control are a stabilizing force. Always with a sense of humor, Don and the family are such an asset to our fleet... just keep Dave and Joan away from those mai- tais, they really pack a punch, huh?
Our friends from Denmark are helping make this event better each time they come. This was Per's 2nd trip to SF and as you may know from previous entries, he brought a boat over to race and then sell... which of course, I bought... I'm no dummy. I know a good deal when on a folkboat when I see it. Per proved his word was true when the deal went through with no problems. It's what I love about this fleet, your word matters.
Svend Svendsen... what more needs to be said? The God Father of Folkboats' presence commands respect. He loves dusting off the blue blazer, getting on the microphone and hamming it up for the opening ceremonies. I've known Svend... or should I say, Svend has known me since I was born and has always treated me so well. He takes extra time out of his day when I'm in the yard to go over a boat problem I'm having and always has little bits of advice that help fill in the gaps in my sailing knowledge. My favorite Svend story comes from a time when I was racing with Svend and Sean on their folkboat... Sean and I were down to the boat early and we had everything ready to go so all Svend had to do was get on board and we shoved off... then came the complaining, "I hate getting down to the boat, I hate getting the sails ready, I hate getting out of the harbor and getting out the race course... I love racing. I hate taking the boat back into the harbor, I hate putting the boat away, I hate...."
Soren Hansen has been in the wood working/boat repair business a long time, classically trained in Denmark by very intense craftsmen, Soren makes a great wooden mast that the few that have one claim make them faster. He chooses only the best wood, but I wouldn't say he takes his time, I've seen him work. For him it's like walking through the park, he just cuts and glues and shaves and... blammo... a perfect mast. His booms are top notch too. Without guys like Soren we'd have a lot boats not ready to race in time. He pulled an all nighter during the regatta so Bill Dumullen could have a mast re-rigged for the next day!
Then their is my dad, Chuck Kaiser. 7 time season champion, 11 time Wednesday evening champion... I've got some big shoes to fill. He still makes it out to most of the events even though it can be really uncomfortable for him. He has a hard time hearing and in a noisy room it can be down right irritating. He loves to talk about folkboats when he can find someone to talk about them... here he is with Ditte telling a story about this one time it was blowing like stink and....